community solutions Jackie Starkovich Linda Bjarke adopt a family
Jackie Starkovich (left) and Linda Bjarke show some of the many presents donated this year to Community Solutions’ Adopt a Family program. Photo: Kimberly Ewertz
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Struggling to make ends meet is a fact of life for many South County families, and the holiday season adds an additional burden. But thanks to Community Solutions, many of those families are provided a respite from their worries.

In 1977, when Nancy Neyer-Kinoshita joined the organization, then called the Bridge Counseling Agency, she recognized the additional need the holidays posed for the families they served. Her answer was the creation of the Love Baskets program. 

“Working with families and seeing the hard choices they had to make; do you keep the heat on and feed your kids, or do you have a Christmas tree and presents? So, we started collecting toys and clothes, and we’d go to the food bank,” Neyer-Kinoshita said.

That concept continues through the Adopt a Family program, where staff submit families on their caseload in the greatest need to be adopted by local individuals, organizations and businesses. An average of 100 families each year receive gifts of toys and everyday essentials. 

“I truly know in my heart what a difference this agency makes in the children and families in this community. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people’s lives completely turn around,” Neyer-Kinoshita said.

community solutions Nancy Neyer-Kinoshita
Nancy Neyer-Kinoshita helps wrap gifts for Community Solutions’ Adopt a Family program. Photo: Kimberly Ewertz

In addition, the Holiday Giving Program includes the holiday toy warehouse which is filled with donations of toys and much more which is then distributed to those not included in the Adopt a Family program. 

“We also received Christmas trees through One Giving Tree,” said Lisa DeSilva, Community Solutions’ Chief Development Officer. “People truly care about other people, and they want to do whatever they can, and we, and the other nonprofit organizations are the connectors.”

This year 66 donors adopted 106 families, consisting of 405 individuals. 

“We have many returning donors year after year and a lot of long-term volunteers and employees,” Holiday Giving Program Coordinator Jackie Starkovich said.

Included among those volunteers is Kym Good, former Community Solutions’ Operations Manager. In answer to why she volunteers, her reason is simple. 

“This is where my heart is,” Good said. 

Another longtime volunteer, Leann, credits the generosity of the donors. 

“It’s wonderful that so many businesses and individuals donate,” she said. “And what they don’t donate, we go shopping for with the monetary donations. As long as they’ll let me come and volunteer, I’ll be here, and I’ll bring all my friends.”

What began in 1973 as a grassroots organization with a handful of employees, now serves a multitude of adults, children and families with offices in Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Hollister and San Jose. Community Solutions lives up to its mission statement, “To create opportunities for positive change by promoting and supporting the full potential of individuals, the strengths of families, and the well-being of our community.”

“Being able to be a part of something that is so meaningful definitely keeps me here,” said DeSilva, who joined the organization in 1982. “We are able to provide support and services to those families, adults, kids and youth in the community that are in the most pain and need of services and support.”

DeSilva credits her 335 staff members made up of therapists, social workers, case managers, promotoras and infrastructure staff, with the organization’s success. 

“Our staff are extremely dedicated to our clients and to get them to a place of wellness,” she said.

Officially retired from the organization in 2012, Neyer-Kinoshita’s commitment continues. 

“The agency has grown so tremendously and I’m just so proud to come back and offer my assistance,” she said. “I’m always game for whatever way I can help. I love this agency, it was my life.”

For information about Community Solutions, or to donate, visit communitysolutions.org.

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